BIg Poppa's Obvious Keys to Smoking Happiness

Big Poppa

This thread just came to me because a lot of the threads have touched on a lot of this. I also know that all of you probably know all of this but we get a lot of lurkers and newbies.

The first basic....If you are looking you are not cooking. I've heard that each time you open the pit it slows the cook down by 10-20 minutes depending on the outside ambient temp

If you arent sure what temp to cook a piece of meat:
The thinner the cut the hotter and quicker
the thicker the lower and slower.
The leaner the meat the quicker you can cook it
The cheaper the cut the slower the cook A great example is with pork...Tenderloin can be cooked at 300Butts and shoulders 225-275

When cooking a Brisket or Butt for the first time. The cook will stall out and you will panic . I tell everyone about it and when It happens they panic. This is called the rest. It is where the collagen in the tough meat is converted to gelatin...It can happen anywhere between 155 internal to 170ish...YTou will check back after two hours and think your fire is out or your thermometer is busted. You will open your pit and lose heat and make things worse..Relax when it starts rising it is usually very quick.

Things to look for at the butcher counter....

The grading scale is a marketing division of the USDA...use you eyes first. Look at marbling charts on the internet and see what you like. Sometimes at Costco the choice is as good or not better than the prime. IN a rib eye great marbling is better...New yorks wil have a little less unless you get to cook Strube wagyu....
Filets will have very little marbling.

For pellet smokers thick steaks are better. If you have a 3/4 of an inch steak cook on high (see the thinner the cut the quicker the cook) 1 1/2 inch steaks love either sear first or reverse sear depending on your preferred style of cooking

REST YOUR MEAT after cooking. This will require you to pull a few degrees from your desired finishing temp as it will rise before dropping iof lightly tented.

If you know your desired pit temp and the desired internal meat temp you just need patience and a good wired thermometer.
Foil...Your friend Also called the Texas Crutch...some diehards dont like it. it is a great resource/tool for 'tenting' which is where you create a tent shaped cover to the meat after it comes off. Many people use foil to wrap their ribs, butts and briskets mid cook once they get the color they want. It helps steam the food...when wrapping it is with two layers of foil and tightly with what ever desired liquid you choose. and the final is the 'FTC" which is 'Foil Towel Cooler'. When you need to hold your meat put a towel in your cooler (beachtowels work great) beachtowels work great. (Make sure there is a towel on the bottom or your hot food could melt your cooler) then you place your meat and put another towel or two to fill up the volume. You also if you are need ing to hold for a little while and not going anywhere just foil the meeat in its pan and cover with a towel.

Fish likes to be cooked quickly...Its a sear,,,You cook fish like you cook a thin steak you can cook a delicate fish on heavy duty foil or even place an oven ready pan I like cast iron...Because of the delicate nature of the fish you should use either Frogmats or the grill grates. Look at the fish you are going to cook....a swordfish is almost as hearty as a beef steak...cook it on any surface....chilean sea bass is so delicate I actually wrap it in foil and cook with the sauce that I want to use...the sauce is used sparingly in conjunction with the selected seasoning. Salmon needs support when cooking also.
Veggies...Most fresh veggies need to be cooked on high heat also. Here is the order to cook through you may not like what the outside looks like. A good technique is to steam or 'blanch' first...To staem you can use your stove top and or take a pyrex oven proof pan and put the veggies in slightly seasoned with a litle water do not fill the pan....and cover with saran wrap and turn to high for a coupla minutes...then season and grill on high heat. I like blanching WHere you take the veggies and put them for just a minute or so into boiling water then quickly remove and cool down into a bowl of ice or cold water....from there you season and smoke or grill on high heat
Veggies that neeed blanching
Asparagus, Squash, Snap Peas, String Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, carrots
For artichokes I boil or steam for about 20 minutes I then season and grill on high heat.....No need to cool them down.

Everyone feel free to add to this thread


New member
Great Thread Sterling as I am a total Newb to all of this and want to make sure that I learn all that I can to make myself and the food I cook more successful!


New member
Thanks BP! I've been searching for this kind of info, I know,it's dribbled out everywhere on this site, but but each search has so many distractions (great recipes, tips to research, links to follow)'s good to have some newbie type generic info collected in one place.

Example: researching for my first prime rib smoke (1/1) I see all these references to "tenting" with foil...took a while digging to find out it means exactly what it big trick here, but to the newbie, ya never know when there's a little trick to an obvious technique.

Thanks again for this invaluable forum!

Big Poppa

Jripo have you watched my videos yet? they are on the BIg Poppa Website on the left hand side under "Outdoor Cooking Videos" the grilling gallery there is cool too hundreds of great recipes...some even by me!


New member
Jrip have you watched my videos yet?

quite a few, but not all...I have pretty much spent most of my spare time the last week soaking up as much info as possible...finally got smart and started a notebook of interesting stuff to research any good endeavor, the possibilities are almost endless....enjoying the journey so far!


When cooking a Brisket or Butt for the first time. The cook will stall out and you will panic . I tell everyone about it and when It happens they panic. This is called the rest. It is where the collagen in the tough meat is converted to gelatin...It can happen anywhere between 155 internal to 170ish...

I always try to be asleep when this happens!


Keep a log of every aspect of every cook you do. Nothing will help you improve your cooking quicker and guarantee repeat successes better than a log that you can refer back to! jimsbarbecue has created software for you to do just that and has made it available free of charge. Download it, set it up and tailor it to your own specifications and start keeping records. In my mind, this one aspect is the single most important thing you will do to improve your skills.


Scooter is right and it is why I made the software because I was not good at doing this and some of my best cooks at the dinner table the family lets me know it is a keeper and I have nothing written down.


New member
Great thread! The only thing I would add is that, these are the "basics" - use them and adapt to what you like/want.... you can cook a brisket in 12 hrs or 7 hrs depending on what steps you choose to take, temps, etc. both of those briskets can be wonderful. I have cooked a brisket that won a contest in 3.5 hrs (4.5 if you include cooler/rest time). Great info here, I'm sure this will be an oft visited thread!!


New member
enjoy the process. buy the meat, season it, watch it smoke, have a refreshment & then eat it. smoking happiness.

Big Poppa

How about this one?

"I sear to seal the juices in" One of the most common wives tale and also the source of great arguments. Searing does not seal anything. It does however create a "malliard reaction" it is a reaction based on heat being added creating a reaction between the carbohydrates (sugars) and the amino acids (proteins) in meat.
2. The 'blood' oozing out of your cooked cut of meat is not blood. The blood in the animal is drained early on. The liquid that we all mistake for blood is actually Myoglobin.


New member
HEY BP. That's is a great start on what's going to be a super topic.

This is what I tell newbies (& I consider myself to always be in the learning process and always striving to improve).

Keep a good set of notes on your cook, whether successful or a complete failure.
Evaluate each session so that your can improve the next time you do that cook or repeat your results.

For example, I plan to do some chicken quarters on the pellet grill this weekend. I keep my notes stored on my computer and so it's easy to look up CHICKEN and see what works best.

Also, as a newbie, I didn't pay attention to keeping a lot of supplies on hand. Now I'm very well stocked with all the necessities like (heavy-duty) aluminum foil, papertowels, etc.

Finally, be OK with your mistakes. Just learn from them. Like neglecting the temp. probe this weekend and trying to run my MAK with a cruddy temp probe. What's up with that? The unit isn't designed to cook properly with a gunked up temp probe. I should know better. Won't let that happen again!


New member
Great thread. I'm new to pellet cooking and the 8-9 things I've made have all been good. Journaling should be included though so I don't forget the processes!


New member
Wonderful thread... Great tips from BP and everyone else. One thing that has helped me is adaptation and repetition. By this I mean take a known dish and cook it as it is listed then next time "tweak" it a bit.... Cook it a bit longer, and your favorite rub, inject orange juice or whatever. This speeds up the mistake processes and thus the learning.

I really like the tip of keeping a cooking log.... This something I have just started. I like using the notes program built into iOS and also Evernote. Both are free and both will let keep your notes with you at all times as the will stay synced across many devices ie phone, tablet, and or PC. This very handy when you are at the store and you get the call from your wife "the jones are coming over for dinner"... A quick look through the phone and bam you have a dinner plan.


If your heat source is below the bottom grate, yes. I keep the big meats as far away from the heat source as I can.
Top Bottom